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[READ] How 18-Year Old Designer Will Berman Defines Creativity

Each time we talk to 18-year old designer Will Berman he’s making something new: A denim bomber jacket? A forged brass cuff? A five panel cap with a stash pocket? It was this constant need to create that first impressed us two years ago when at 16 he pitched  Unwashed Denim, his line of raw denim accessories at a STORY Pitch Night. For his latest project – a sculptural Indigo-dyed chair – he challenged himself to design within a set of constrictions. Here he talks through the process behind the piece and how he continues to define and then redefine creativity. 

How do you define creativity? 

I think creativity is many things. It’s not being afraid to explore the unexplored or build on something that inspired you. Creativity is finding unexpected solutions to problems. Creativity is beauty. It’s being able to simultaneously focus on the minute details of something while also seeing the bigger picture. Creativity draws you in. Creativity is reassessing what you thought you knew. Among other things…

What was your vision with the chair? 

I wanted the chair to reflect the same general aesthetic of my Unwashed Denim products and give off a rustic, gritty, handcrafted vibe. Sitting is an everyday action that’s rarely given much thought, and I wanted my chair to change that. Before sitting in it, I hoped people would be inclined to stop and question or appreciate the chair in some way. On the top of my paper when I started sketching I jotted a few things I wanted the chair to accomplish: “Tell a story (!), engage the senses, and set a mood with color and pattern.” A lot for a chair to accomplish, I know, but I envisioned a piece of sculptural engineered art.

Ok, technical stuff – how’d you make it? 

I created a digital sketch in Illustrator, Vcarve, and ShopBot so I could transfer the files to a CNC machine for cutting. The design for each slice of plywood (34 slices, each ½” thick) needed to be edited ever so slightly because the inside webbing and shape is subtly different for all 34. After cutting, I dipped each slice in an indigo bath various numbers of times. I then painted a thin layer of glue in between them before stacking and clamping them all together.

What did you learn by making it? 

I really enjoyed experimenting with digital design for the first time, blending it with my love of working with my hands. In the past my design process relied on tweaking physical prototypes until I got it just right, but this project forced me to fully flesh out the design in my head (and on the computer) before executing it.

When’s the last time you were inspired?

Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel by Matt Zoller Seitz. It’s an in depth expose on the making of The Grand Budapest Hotel with plenty of interviews, sketches, etc. that give insight into the unique mind of Wes Anderson.

When you hit a wall creatively the best way to get over it is….

I’ve found it much easier to design something if I have to work around a set of restrictions instead of creating something out of thin air. For example, I knew my latest creation needed to form a seat and I wanted it to be simultaneously rustic and “light.” Once I had the restrictions I could push, pull, and tug at them until the chair filled the need in a way that was my own.